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on 13 June 2014
This is a book to cherish. It ranges throughout EH's publishing life and covers a wide variety of topics, as other reviewers have detailed: from peasant land occupations in Latin America, to the radicalism of certain professions in 19th c. Europe, to the wonderful Sidney Bechet and the equally wonderful, but also pretty horrible person, Duke Ellington.

Some of the pieces are scholarly articles, whereas others are book reviews, lectures or magazine pieces. Some of these pieces where groundbreaking historical scholarship when they came out (e.g. the peasant land occupations; the "radical shoemakers") others are expressions of his life-long love of jazz.

The style varies but it is, throughout, very very rigorous: argument after radical arguent and impressive research.

Overall, this is a very good example of Hobsbawm's synthetic brilliance, his power of making history 'from below', and his deep human interest (combined with spectacular disciplinary rigour) in the so-called common people. Who are, it turns out, always fascinating, agents of their own history, and not determined by the 'great men' of conservative history: they are uncommon.

In short, recommended if you're new to EH (because you can dip in and out of areas that may interest you and see his breadth) and recommened if you've read EH's "The Age of..." masterworks (because it will allow you to understand where, intellectually and emotionally speaking, he's coming from).

A brilliant book: varied, ingenious, groundbreaking.
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on 10 April 2013
Uncommon People is a collection of Eric Hobsbawm's essays spanning the majority of his long career, from the 1950s to the mid-1990s. It brings together a wide range of topics, collected under four headings: The Radical Tradition, Country People, Contemporary History and Jazz.

Under "The Radical Tradition", there are essays addressing Thomas Paine, the Luddites, the radicalism of shoemakers, the difference between labour traditions in France and Britain, the development of a distinctive working class culture, the skilled manual wage worker in Victorian moral frameworks, the iconography of male and female representations in labour movements, the origins and history of May Day as a working class celebration, the relationship between socialism and the avant-garde, and Labour Party stalwart Harold Laski.

"Country People" includes two longer essays, one providing a general overview of peasant politics, and a second study of land occupations, as well as an essay on the Sicilian Mafia.

The rubric "Contemporary History" features pieces Hobsbawm wrote while the embers were still hot, with pieces on Vietnam and guerilla warfare, May 1968, and sexual liberation. As a result they tend to feel dated, though as contemporary reports are still of interest for this very reason.

Finally, the "Jazz" section contains half a dozen reviews and short writings on Sidney Bechet, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, jazz in Europe, jazz after 1960, and jazz's relationship with blues and rock. A final essay, slotted under this Jazz heading, was written on the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landing in America, and highlights the oft forgotten benefits and advances this event brought about, from the notion of a Utopia, to the development of a theory of evolution, and the spread of staple foodstuffs like potatoes and maize.

The problem with this collection is that being of such a broad spectrum, only a handful of the essays are likely to appeal to the reader. Some of the pieces, particularly the shorter jazz reviews and essays, are written in an easy, affable manner, whilst many of the essays on peasant and working class movements are far more technical and heavily footnoted, and really require a background understanding to get anything from them. Nevertheless there are plenty of gems here: the essay on the Luddites amongst other machine-breaking groups highlights how the word inherited has little to do with the motivations of those people; his coverage of the development of a distinctive working class culture highlights the symbolism of something as mundane as the flat cap; whilst the essay on the Vietnam war and guerilla warfare has interesting implications for modern day conflicts such as in Afghanistan.
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This collection of disjecta membra by the unrepentent old idealist makes a nice pendant to my last. Why do leftists age so much more gracefully than rightists? Perhaps because their illusions are intact
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on 4 November 2014
Excellent 5 star service
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on 1 September 2013
Hobsbawm, as usual is very original, wity, lively and very very interesting. Easily read and highly entertaining on various unusual subjects
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on 22 February 2013
One of the great historians of the 20C and a brilliant writer recalling and connecting his times, perceptions and enthusiasms.
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on 4 August 2009
Hobsbawn at his usual best, though one has to accept his political point of view.
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